How to Say No to a Wedding Invitation

Saying no is hard to do.  Luckily, I’m not talking about proposals today.  Instead I want to cover how to say no to a wedding invitation when you can’t afford to be in it or attend.  Millennials may be killing industries like chain restaurants and fabric softener but people are still getting married.  They are spending my starting salary in Financial Services – an average of $30,000 to do so.  It isn’t just the happy couple going into debt to pay for their wedding, guests are starting to feel the pain in their wallets as well.  The days of “covering your meal” are over.  Wedding days are now wedding weekends with new financial obligations for guests and attendants to manage.  Here are some tips for how you to say no if you can’t afford it.

Automatic Decline – The Stranger

I opted for a micro-wedding (Read here for more on that) because the thought of meeting someone new that day made me anxious.  All of our guests knew us very well which limited a lot of the stress normally associated with weddings.  In fact my husband was going down the water slide at the hotel until about an hour before showtime.  If you are invited to a wedding for someone you are not well acquainted with the best thing you can do for your budget is say no.

Using the invitation to RSVP is perfectly fine in this scenario.  Still feeling guilty?  If you want to you can send a card with a nice note.  I think gifts are nice but optional in this instance but that is up to you.  Sending anything will still cost you far less than attending the event.  Some people invite hundreds of people to their wedding fully expecting some to say no.  Be that person if your heart isn’t in it.

Tentatively Speaking

It gets harder to say no the closer you are to someone.  However, there are some situations that you really should if you can’t comfortably afford to go.  For example, the coworker you say hello to but don’t spend any free time with or a friend from high school you haven’t spoken to in years.  These are great weddings to attend if you have the money – but you don’t want to break your own budget to do so.  Here is how you decline these invitations:

Congratulations – Thank you so much for the invitation but unfortunately I have a conflict that day and won’t be able to attend.  I would love to catch up with you after you return from the wedding/honeymoon!

Sending a card or a note in this situation is a nice way to let the person know you do appreciate them thinking of you.  If you have some extra money you can always send something small on the registry as well.  It’s been said we regret the things we don’t do in life but with the average cost of attending a wedding for a distant relative or friends nearing $400 this is a smart one to turn down.  Also, offering to meet up after the event might be just what they need when all of the wedding excitement is over.

Friends with indebtedness

This gets tricky.  There may be a time where you really want to go to a friend’s wedding but you do not have the money to make it happen.  Take it from me (your Best Financial Friend) – you should say no.  It isn’t as easy in this situation as sending the invitation back in the self addressed stamped envelope but it is still the right move.  To say no to a close friend you need to follow a few rules:

  1. Say no quickly – don’t make them wait to hear from you because that gets frustrating as they go about planning for the reception and meals.  If they have to chase you down it will be even more annoying for them than just knowing you can’t go and move on.
  2. Don’t lie – if you make up an elaborate story about a surgery or work trip that day it will just hurt them more if they learn the truth.  You don’t have to get into too much detail and if it is embarrassing to admit money is the reason just keep it simple.
  3. Say “because” – This tends to help people understand you and agree with you.  If you say I really would love to come to your wedding but I can’t make it because I am focusing all of my finances on (paying down student loan debt) or (funding my business) or (moving out) etc. The reason doesn’t matter much but it leaves less room to question the decision.
  4.  Don’t back pedal – if you say no stick with it.  Don’t waiver and make it seem like you might change your mind.  This is just frustrating for everyone involved.
  5. Send a nice gift from the registry – they want everything on there so pick whatever you can comfortably afford.

With 20% of guests going into debt to attend a wedding it is clear we don’t have reasonable expectations about what people can afford.  We are also really uncomfortable talking about money with our friends and family. Saying no to people you love is hard but you need to put your mental and financial health ahead of what other people want.

When NO isn’t an option

As soon as your best friend/family member gets engaged you need to start putting some money aside.  The average cost to be in a wedding is close to $1000 (over $1000 if you live in the Northeast like me).  That is also more money than the average American has saved.  It isn’t romantic but if you know you might go into debt to afford the “honor” here are some things you should ask:

  • Is it going to be a destination wedding?
  • What are your expectations for a Bachelorette/Bachelor Party?
  • Will you require the same attire (dress/accessories) or not?
  • Do you want everyone to get professional services done like hair, nails and makeup?

These are just a few questions that will impact how close or over the $1000 you are going to end up.  If the bride or groom has caviar dreams and you know you will resent every moment of the event you might want to opt out early.  That doesn’t mean you have to decline the whole event.  You could say that you financially can’t swing everything they “deserve” for their wedding and ask for a smaller role like a reading at the ceremony.  Maybe they will understand that they are asking for too much of a financial commitment and scale down the wish list.  It is better to say no than accept and let them down.  This will be torture for the entire time leading up to the wedding day and may cause more drama than saying no.  You don’t want to end up like the >50% of attendants that would reconsider accepting or the ones that actually fight over money before the big day.  Those people lost money and friends in the process!

Have you ever regretted being in a wedding?  Are you still paying off any debt from yours or someone else’s wedding?  It’s normal to want to be a part of the event and having a budget for things like this can help ease the financial burden.  Do you have a wedding/fun budget? Let me know in the comments! 



Scroll to Top